The following is the general overview of the organization of society in Europe prior to the French Revolution (1789-1799).

General TrendEdit

  1. population increase (from 1750-1800, population grwe by 47 million to 187 million) in Europe
  2. people (agricultural workers) moved to cities (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Berlin)
  3. country people became industrialized workers, servants, or craftsmen in cities
  4. people had a cosmopolitan (interested in the world beyond Europe) outlook on life
  5. people began to move away from mercantilism (where government controls the economic direction because wealth is limited) to laissez-faire (people seeking their own wealth; competition)


  • It had absolute monarchs, strong kinds. The monarchy needed to be strong in order to prevent people from killing each other, to maintain peace and order, and to rule with authority. The nature of man was evil and needed to be guided. (Hobbes and Machiavelli supported absolute monarchs in their writings)
  • It developed a theory to justify their power: Divine Rights of Kings. This meant that kings hold power directly from God and are answerable only to God.
  • It made the church subordinate to the government instead of competing with the ruler.
  • It held on to mercantilism.


  • It is the upper crust of society (Dukes, Earls, etc.)
  • It is also the aristocracy (a hereditary ruling class). You could inherit a position simply by being born into the family. Or, you could buy a position from the crown
  • It spent a great deal of time at parties and playing games
  • It enjoyed extensive privileges (no taxes to pay)
  • It had some of its power 'removed' by the absolute king
  • It was threatened by the bourgeoisie (the business people)

Church (Roman Catholic)Edit

  • It explained and defined the universe
  • In condemned ideas (such as Copernicus' idea that the earth revolved around the sun)
  • It had freedom of taxation in some areas; it could tax people; and it gave the king its own 'free donation'
  • It lost great power due to the divine right of kings
  • It gave hope and it held people together spiritually
  • It was criticized for religious intolerance

Everyone ElseEdit

  • It comprised 85-90% of the population in Europe (merchants, bankers, craftsmen, businesspeople, financiers, lawyers, writers, peasants [at the bottom]). Some members of this class will become the middle class.
  • It was often denied political, economic, and social rights
  • It had to pay heavy taxes
  • It could not often into high offices of the state (for example, France) - not even if its members belonged to the wealthy bourgeoisie

Next: Middle Ages

Kerr This information is provided from the teachings of Mr. Kerr. Keep in mind that it may be slightly different from that which another teacher may have taught.